July 23, 2019 6.09 pm This story is over 51 months old

Barry Turner: Boris has no more worlds to conquer 

“The campaign is over”

So he made it! A lifetime’s ambition is achieved. Boris Johnson is our new PM and he reinvented himself yet again within a few short minutes of finding that out, as if he did not know well before.

The overwhelming majority of votes from the party membership gives on the face of it full authority and mandate to his leadership of the party even though many would disagree that he has majority support to be leader of the country.

In the short speech made after his election Boris spelled out his optimistic vision and his one nation Tory credentials. He and we should look forward to a “can do” Britain under his leadership and it was clear he savoured what was probably one of his last rhetorical speeches. He is now in office and the time for threats and promises, gung ho banter and bumbling eccentricity is over.

There was clear acknowledgement from the new PM that the campaign is over and the work must begin and that work will start late tomorrow afternoon after his visit to the Queen confirms him in he job. Within a few days we will see the shape of his new government and that is likely to be the first of many manifestations of Boris in office as compared to Boris the campaigner. It is likely to be a shock to some of those who ardently supported him in his campaign.

Most of the leading political pundits are already suggesting that his cabinet will not be full of devoted Brexiteers after all. He is going to need those capable not only of delivering an orderly withdrawal from the EU but those capable of dealing with the realities of that withdrawal. From now on it is not ‘can do’ but ‘must do’. The role of the UK’s new government is delivering not just Brexit but everything else that has been promised.

There are many, including your writer here, who have doubted Boris Johnson’s promises, pledges and declarations in the past so what has changed? Well it really is quite simple — the promises are the old Boris and by necessity he now must become the new Boris. He is now in the the top job, he is now behind the steering wheel of the nation. It is no longer the time for telling others which direction they should go and how to get there, he is the driver now.

Our new PM has a steep hill to climb. He has spent several weeks ratcheting up the rhetoric and pandering to one particular view within the Tory party membership. His relentless attacks on the EU aristocracy and institutions have made him hero to many but leave him with difficulties in further negotiations with those self same people and institutions. We are likely to see a less bellicose Boris the next time he mentions the EU. He is a statesman now, not a campaigner.

Very large spending promises have been made during that campaign and in his victory speech he repeated several of them. The voters will be very unforgiving if they are not delivered, because contrary to the views of the hardliners family incomes, security, health and education are very much more important than Brexit. Campaigning on slogans is easy and cheap, delivering the goods rather more costly and much less of a smooth ride.

So now we have it. A lifetime’s ambition achieved, a Brexit PM and an optimistic vision for the future. As we are informed Boris Johnson is a classicist, a scholar of ancient civilisations. He undoubtedly will remember from his studies another ambitious man who also got the top job that he had always wanted. When Alexander the Great was 33 he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer.

Like Alexander, Boris will have to assimilate many of the ideas of those he has conquered and he suggested he would do that in his victory speech. Like Alexander, Boris might find that the conquering is a darn sight easier than the governing. For the moment let’s be grateful for one more thing he said in his speech: “the campaign is over”.

Barry Turner is a Senior Lecturer in War Reporting and Human Rights and a member of the Royal United Services Institute.